2008 Fellows

    Julian Joslin

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“Working at the Federal Defenders of New York has been one of the more conflicting but fascinating experiences of my life. One imagines community service as teaching impoverished innocent children to read; however, most of the people I worked with this summer were far from innocent. In fact, the people that I tried to keep out of prison were exactly the same people I did not want to run into on the street outside my East Williamsburg apartment. The summer left me questioning why the U.S. government treats criminal offenders so poorly, but also, why I was trying to defend these offenders.”

“My responsibilities ranged from administrative tasks like helping a family post bail for another family member to writing argumentative memos to judges advocating lesser sentences for our clients. What made each task interesting were the people with whom it brought me into contact: the mother bailing out her recently arrested son who would most likely be calling jail his home for the next five years; the man accused of selling thirty-eight handguns, whom I escorted on a six hour furlough for his father’s funeral in the Bronx; and the brother and sister violently forced for eight years to swallow huge amounts of heroin in Peru and smuggle it into the United States.”

“As the summer progressed, however, I slowly came to understand that the Federal Defenders are not trying to put guns back on the street or advocating that drug dealers should be left to their own devices; instead, they are trying to ensure that the American legal system does not become a tyranny of the wealthy as so much else in our society has. Whether one likes it or not, the United States is a country of laws, under which every citizen is purportedly equal; however, this system of laws is highly complex, and to truly understand its in and outs, one needs an expensive degree. A poor drug-carrying thug may not know the criteria for a legal search as well as an Upper East Side lawyer, who may also illegally possess drugs; however, these laws must apply evenly to both, and the Federal Defenders work to make sure of this.”

“My experience has redirected me both intellectually and professionally. Though for many years I had been set on applying to film school after graduation, after my work this summer I’ve decided that to be only a filmmaker would be too observational for me. While I hope to continue this hobby of mine, I am determined to attend a public interest law school. Furthermore, after being so angered by the seemingly arbitrary nature of the methods of punishment, I can’t imagine being satisfied just memorizing the laws and using them to my clients’ advantage. Thus, as I approach my senior thesis, I plan to center my research on the philosophy of crime and punishment in the hopes of understanding the theory behind the justice system as it is now and gaining a better understanding of how it must be changed.”